Sunday, October 28, 2012

Too Real

October is always a rough month, and this October was no exception. But this past week was what was really bad. I had major freak out moments, but didn't tell anyone. I finally texted my dear friend who has known me since we were 8 and 9 years old. All I essentially said was that I was having a a major freak out moment. But she knew me well enough, to know that it's rare that I have freak out moments that are so big I can't logically combat them myself. And she also knows that if they are the point of me sharing it, it's a big deal and I wasn't being dramatic (well, maybe I was). Needless to say, she sprung into action, best she could being 1200 miles away.

The other night I had to get out of bed and write on my mirror three things:
  • Respect yourself
  • Love yourself
  • Be kind to yourself
Because, guess what I haven't been doing? Respecting myself, loving myself, or being kind to myself.

I'm struggling with where to go with this, because I've tried to be somewhat vulnerable in every post. But as far as this post goes, it leads to being too real. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Being a Real Grown Up

I've learned something--adults don't have it all together. That is a profound thing for me. For awhile, that actually made me really uneasy. I didn't like that people didn't have a clear direction or still struggled with things. I didn't feel more at ease because "real adults", people in my life who I respected and revered and were legitimate adults, didn't know everything. It has taken me a long time to be "okay" with that, actually.

For most people, it does put them at ease that there are other people, particularly people who are older/wiser/etc, who are also struggling. I'm probably part of a small minority (maybe even by my lonesome) who was not comforted by that. I think I was so uneasy, because that really scared me. The idea that I would always struggle, that I would always want to give in to the "id", that I probably won't have it all together when I'm done with school really scared me.

Secretly, I was hoping that as soon as I graduated college/finished, as soon as I found an actual career, as soon as I either had a family or had my own legitimate life, suddenly life would be good. Not that my life is not good right now, it is. But, in the sense that I wouldn't be worried about things--life would be figured out...I would have it all together.

So hearing that people didn't have it all together scared me and made me uneasy. But, if you noticed that language in most of this, it was past tense. Because, I'm a little more okay with it now and actually do find it slightly comforting that adults don't have it all together.

Being a real grown up doesn't mean you have it all together. Arguably, being a real grown up means being willing to say you don't have it all together.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Challenge #2A

If you missed the original overview of the struggle--check it out here.

My second challenge to my faith was that there were so many great people who do great things who don't know Jesus. That really put a wedge in my faith in Jesus. I had so many awesome people in my life who did awesome things, who loved people and who wanted to do good things for the world. Beyond that, almost a separate issue, was that I saw non-Christians being even kinder and more loving than Christians. I was challenged by that and really, I was confused by that. I see so many good people in the world doing good things. I was surrounded by non-Christians who were sincerely kind and wonderful. People who didn't know Jesus, but loved people.

Growing up, I had always heard that your life radically changes when you meet Jesus. I was confused because I saw people changing without Jesus. On one hand, that's really awesome that people are doing great things. On the other, it led to the question of...What is the actual purpose/reason of Jesus? People who don't have a personal relationship with Jesus still radically love, still fully forgive.

And, it kind of seemed like those who didn't know Jesus were almost "more noble" because when they did kind things or cared about people, they didn't have any ulterior motives like they wanted that person saved or whatever terminology you want to use. They just did a nice thing because it was a nice thing. One of the hottest phrases in Christianity or "Christian-ese" is "planting a seed". Christians do a nice thing because it's a nice thing, but to also "plant a seed". Always another motive, and that bothered me.

It sounds odd, but I was challenged by the fact that there were so many good people in the world. I wondered what the actual purpose/reason of Jesus was.

Challenge #1A

First, check out the original post--The Heart of the Question

Going into my senior year of college, I wasn't prepared to meet the people that I did. By that time, I had thought I had already developed "enough" friendships that would last and wasn't really planning on really connecting with people that year. Sounds awful, I know. And it was awful. It was an awful plan, too. A plan that clearly backfired because I met some of the most phenomenal, life changing, challenging, and important friends that year.

My senior year of college, I was challenged a lot. I was challenged in ways I hadn't been challenged before. One person who challenged me a lot was a girl I met my last year at NAU. She didn't challenge me in a bad way, but she most certainly challenged my thoughts, my motives, my words, and my actions both knowingly and unknowingly. She and I have almost nothing in common. I think our list of commonalities is a total of like four things. We don't look anything alike, we don't have the same interests, we don't necessarily value the same things, we don't believe in the same things, we don't study the same things, we aren't from the same place. Despite all of that though, we got along really, really well. And somehow, we developed a solid friendship, one where we trusted each other and talked about real things. Out of all of the people in my life my senior year, I think I valued her opinion the most. I valued what she thought, about me and about the world. I trusted her with myself.

We had a lot of conversations, especially about the concept of God. She was the first person ever in my life to really present a logical case to me that not only is possible that He may not exist--but that if He doesn't exist, that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Every other person and every other argument I had ever heard said "God may not exist, and that would suck".

When I was deciding whether to commit my life to Christ or not, I remember basically thinking that that would mean that I am in. All in, completely, 100%. I was accepting Christ and all that He stood for as Truth. And that, if there were 100 things and 99 were true and 1 was false, that would shatter everything. I'm too logical and I'm not about to pick and choose what parts I think are true and what parts are not. It was like a true/false question. It can be almost all right, but if any part of the statement was wrong, the entire thing was false. I knew that if I were ever challenged, I would not be able to just ignore the challenge. I knew I would have to investigate and discern what was what. Throughout most of my life, I was able to do that fairly easily. I was able to listen to people and explain things in a way that made sense. Not until this girl came along was I challenged in a way that I didn't think was possible.

I don't think she thought I was taking her seriously the afternoon we talked and she brought up this idea. But I was. I have been wrestling with this idea for the past few months. When I was 16, I struggled and questioned God's character. I didn't understand suffering or evil. All I knew was that it happened and it sucked. But I had never seriously questioned God's existence. I grew up in church world. And my roots are in the Baptist church (where you don't question anything. Not to knock the Baptists, but really, it was discouraged to question God.) My friend couldn't believe that I hadn't ever questioned His existence. Me, the girl who is "logical to the point of recklessness" and whose logic gets her into trouble countless times, never questioned the fundamental aspect of her beliefs. I wondered, but I didn't question.

So back to the challenge--What if God doesn't exist? What if that's not a bad thing?

Admittedly, I don't think I would have really thought as much about it if that question came from anyone else but her. But they came from someone who I valued and trusted and admired. And besides, she gave me a good argument. No matter what the topic is, no matter how strongly I am for or against something--if I am presented with a logical argument and reasonable ideas as to why I may be wrong or why something/someone else is right, I will consider it. And if I find the other person's findings more reasonable or more logical, I will begin to alter myself to align with logic.

So these questions scared the bejeezus out of me. The thought that God may not exist never really scared me, but the addition of, "..what if it's not bad that there isn't a God" DID scare me. She and I kind of came to one conclusion--that if there isn't a God then Christianity and all that it is doesn't matter at all, but if there is a God, then it's the most important thing in the world. (I don't remember exactly, but I think it was something like that.)

This has quickly gotten very long, so I'll try to wrap it up...

I think I'm almost able to respond to these questions. Not fully, and not quite yet. But almost.

What do you think? Does God exist? Are there gods that exist? Is it a good/bad thing if He does? Doesn't?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Moved

I just moved 1,200 miles away from the state I grew up in. I drove for three days and had a grand ol' time. I didn't really get bored, I didn't really think about things. I just sang, laughed, got trucks to honk, and drove. It wasn't until the second or third day that I got to my destination, four or five days later from me starting my journey, when everything hit me. I realized that I had just moved. I moved to a a new state, with no job, almost no money, no friends, no concept of the people or the community...And I had a major breakdown.

But I had no one to cry to, to tell these things too, to hug. I didn't know what to do. I was afraid to call people back home because I was afraid they would just think I was complaining. Which, I was, but not to be negative, but I was hurting. I was, and still am, deeply hurting. I called my mom and she told me, "You just went through a traumatic, traumatic, life changing event. You have to allow yourself time to grieve. You've never been good with change, so it's going to take time. And that's okay."

She was right. I hadn't allowed myself to grieve. I hadn't allowed myself to really reflect on what I did. Grieving about my move doesn't mean I regret it or that it was a bad choice. It just means that I left some incredible things and incredible people behind. I left really wonderful relationships and one of the best jobs ever. I'm scared.

People keep telling me that things will get better, and I know they're right. But I want things to be better now. I want real friends right here, right now. I hate that I have to "rebuild" relationships. I hate that I have to essentially start my life all over.

This cool guy who I knew at NAU wrote this article for Relevant magazine that was encouraging:

Going Back

I'm going back. I miss Jesus. I miss having a relationship with Him. I miss knowing Him. I've done some major questioning and rethinking, but I think I want Jesus. I think I've decided that He is real and what He did was real. I think He really does love and has boundless grace.

Really, I think I started to get caught up in religion and that scared me and pushed me away. But when I look at Jesus, I'm drawn. I'm not some religious Christian who hates people who view things differently and I hated that people assumed that as soon as they heard "I am a Christian". So I tried to separate myself completely from it all. But Jesus radically loved people. Every person, with every tongue, from every nation. I want to be like that. I don't want to be a religious Christian fanatic and all the assumptions that go with that. I want to be logical about my beliefs and understand real issues and radically love.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vulnerability TED

I love TED. I'm not talking about the movie, I'm talking about TED. Ideas worth spreading. I don't fully understand the ins and outs of it, even after spending lots of time on their website and watching a ton of their talks, but here are the basics--TED is a conference that is done all of over the world where brilliant people go and give a 20 minute lecture on a profound idea. Check it or, the way I really got hooked on it, was the iPhone app.

I have found my first hero via TED. I have plenty of real life heroes--I have great people in my life. But the first person who exists that I don't know and who I want to learn from in a more personal way. Her name is BrenĂ© Brown. She has two TED talks and they are both fantastic. Google her!

Anyways, if you have 20 minutes, watch this video:

And if you have another 20 minutes, watch "The Power of Shame".

Dr. Brown has her Bachelors, Masters, and PhD in Social Work and researches shame and vulnerability.

Her findings, much to her dismay, is that being vulnerable is worth it.
People are worthy.
Tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
Have compassion with yourself and others.
Connect as a result of authenticity.
Fully embrace vulnerability.
Be willing to say "I love you" first.
Be willing to do something with no guarantees, be willing to invest in a relationship.
Believe that you are enough. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Heart of the Question

Time for a real and vulnerable post...

I went to church this weekend. Based on the content of this blog, potentially my FaceBook, and really, most of my life, that may seem like something not really out of the ordinary. Except that, for the year 2012, it was. The last time I went to church was on Easter. The time before that, I think Christmas. Actually, I went once between those two holidays because I had to take someone. It's been more than eight months since I've consistently been to church.

Not until late April did I tell anyone that I was struggling. Almost five months, and no one knew. As of now, two people know of my lack of attendance. I didn't really make it a secret that my last semester of college was extremely difficult, but the more precise reasons as to why it was so difficult were secret. Besides the fact that I have nearly perfected the art of not answering questions I don't want to answer, I'm also good at hiding things.

My friend responded with the question of Ash, what's going on in your heart? I know you, and I know you don't just do something or don't do something for no reason. You always have a reason. There has to be something deeper, because I know you. As important as your actions are, they are just a result of what's going on with you. So tell me about your heart. 

She was absolutely right. She wanted to get to the heart of the issue. It wasn't really about my church attendance. Or the fact that I hadn't prayed or read in my Bible in almost just as many months as I hadn't gone to church. Yes, that mattered. But I had deeper issues--much deeper issues--than just the fact that getting up by 9am on a Sunday was difficult for me. It's going to be a very long time until I get some of them sorted out--it's already been nearly eight months and I am hardly at the point of mentioning it (not equivalent to talking) to people and it was just now that I was at the point of being in a church.

I was going to sort of go into some of the reasons, but I'm not up for that yet. But with this post, I hope it does show that I am working on my vulnerability. People keep putting me up on this pedestal of perfection and I shouldn't be there. I don't want to be there. I mess up, I struggle, I question, I doubt, I get confused, I hurt. Probably, a lot like you. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

I Decided to be a Master

After much debate, research, thoughts, confusion, applications, etc, I once again made either a brilliant decision or a really, really idiotic decision. I decided to be a master. Once I made that decision, I had to decide what specific program and at what school. Did I want to go more in the direction of student affairs or of counseling

I was accepted to The Ohio State University, University of Kansas, and University of Southern California.

To make the long and grueling process and story very short, here's the decision:
I'll be attending the University of Kansas, School of Social Welfare in the Fall, pursuing my MSW.

KU, home of the Jayhawks (basketball fans, anyone?), is "a great place to be a champion" and their reasoning behind their School of Social Welfare is "because people deserve lives with dignity". Their program has four themes:
  1. Focus on people's strengths
  2. Celebration of human diversity
  3. Promotion of social and economic justice
  4. Developing a critical perspective
My undergraduate degree was primarily financed through scholarships. Well, all scholarships. Those scholarships, given to me because I did something well or providing some necessary service, were really the driving force to me deciding to minor and not take an "easy" semester. I felt like the state of Arizona had faith in me to do well--they trusted me academically.

My graduate degree will primarily be financed through loans. In fact, all loans. I had to take out $30,000 in loans to pay for one year of grad school and I'll have to take that same amount out for my second year as well. At first I took that to mean that the federal government and the school had no faith in me. They weren't trusting me and didn't believe in me. And then I thought about it differently. And I may be the only person to think of loans this way, but whatever. They have a lot of faith in me to repay that money (ends up being about $45,000 with interest--multiply by two--I'll be about $90,000 in debt in student loans.) They're trusting me financially. 

After doing a student loan calculator, it reported that I would be paying nearly $400 every month for 10 years just in student loans and in order to do that, I would need to get a job with a salary of $45,000/yr to have a "decent" living and the least amount I could make would be $33,000/yr--though if I did that I would live "very uncomfortably". I'm getting my degree in social work...

If I didn't go to graduate school, I could be one of the few without any debt. And all the money I'm making, I would get to keep. I could get a new car, buy a house, begin real jobs now, and not be in any debt. Instead, I chose to go to school. 

I'm choosing Kansas over California (my dream location). I'm choosing to rent a house instead of living in a house for free (helping me stay financially secure, ever so slightly, and I actually could get a new car). I'm choosing to be in debt almost in 6 figures instead of living debt free. I'm choosing to move away from the time zone I've lived in for over 17 years, away from all that I've known. 

After all this, it sounds like I made a really, really idiotic decision. And then I look at the purpose and themes of the school and hope that it ends up being a brilliant one.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Justice, Forgiveness, Mercifulness

Justice: Behavior according to what is right/fair
Forgiveness: Stop feeling angry/resentful to someone due to a wrong doing
Mercifulness: Compassion towards someone when you have the right to punish/harm

All three of these words sound great--they all sound like words that we like, right? But when you really look at them, you'll see that it's difficult for them to exist together. It's so hard for me to balance those words together. There are a lot of things I have trouble grasping about God, but the thing that's at the top of my list of incomprehensible things is the idea that God is fully just and fully merciful and fully forgiving.

I get made fun of (lovingly, I hope) due to my high guilt complex. But my sense of justice ranks even beyond my guilt complex. I have such a strong sense of justice and injustices destroy me when I see them happen.

I hate that people are struggling. I hate that people who are absolutely incredible are having cruddy things happen to them. I hate that people are suffering, especially those who are suffering due to poor decisions made on other people's parts. I hate that bad things happen in the world. I hate that there are diseases, natural disasters, mental disorders, physical disorders. I hate that there is death.

I see all of those issues and I get upset. I weep and mourn.

I seek justice--I want wrongs righted.
I hold onto the peace that Jesus promises, I hold onto the character of God that I believe in--that He is fully just.

I also know that forgiveness must happen. I know that if true justice was sought, I wouldn't be redeemed. I don't deserve the love that Jesus offers, and I am so thankful for His forgiveness. I believe that He is fully forgiving.

I also know that mercy does not negate justice. I know that being merciful means fully loving. I believe that He is fully merciful.

I believe that God is fully just, fully forgiving, and fully merciful. I believe that there will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more fears. While I may not be able to grasp this idea of justice, forgiveness, and mercifulness, Jesus does. And I trust that He wants justice more than I do and that He loves people and the world more than I do.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012



In less than three months, I will have walked the stage and participated in my undergraduate graduation ceremony. In less than three months, I will have completed all of my coursework necessary to obtain a minor in Political Science and a a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. In less than three months, I will have graduated from Northern Arizona University.

Graduating high school was so much easier. I knew what I was going to do. I knew it wouldn't be difficult for me to get into a university. Good grief, two of my high school counselors told me I could probably get into any university I wanted--I was even encouraged to apply to Harvard--and they told me I wouldn't have any trouble getting a full ride scholarship. I had solid teachers who knew me and supported me. I was excited to graduate high school.

I'm not so excited about graduating college. Really, graduating from college is not fun. (Or cheap. Geeze la weeze it's expensive to graduate!) This has definitely been a trying year and an incredibly difficult semester..and I'm only a month in. Figuring out life is much more difficult than one would think..and most people already think it's pretty darn difficult. Besides that, I have really enjoyed my undergraduate career. I have had an awesome job the past three years, developed incredible relationships, have deepened in my understanding of diversity, and have enjoyed my courses (I mean, not all of them and not the work=P).

Also, my family still lives in the city where my high school is. My friends from high school, I can still see, they are still part of my life. But when I graduate college, I won't have family or strong ties to Flagstaff. And once the people graduate who will still be here next year...they probably won't be here. The relationships I have developed with people here, while many of them are much deeper and more developed than those back home, they are going to take a lot more work to keep. And realizing that, kind of sucks and is slightly heartbreaking.

I'm (temporarily) done ranting about my panic=) 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I'm Not A (BLANK) Major!

Since I've been in college one of the most common phrases I hear is, "Whatever, I'm not a (blank) major".
The most common majors that people use are Math and English.

When someone adds 44 and 32 incorrectly, they just say, "Whatever, I'm not a math major".
When someone misspells a word, they just say, "Whatever, I'm not an English major".

Really, I've heard just about every major used in that blank space...and I'm tired of it. It's one of the most annoying phrases.

At the college level, you should be able to add 44 and 32, you should know how to spell most words, you should know the basics of grammar, you should know that 8x7 is the same as 7x8. Good grief. I hate excuses. And I really hate stupid excuses.

There is no excuse for a college student to not be able to do elementary math or spelling. Besides that, there is a reason why nearly every college requires a certain amount of liberal studies courses for undergraduate studies--because it's important to know some basics of things outside of your main area of study. Am I great at math? No. Do I know how to do Differential Equations? No. Do I know how to do Quantitative Reasoning? Yes. And every NAU student (and really, every college student) should be able to answer "yes" to that last question.


I just hate excuses and I hate when people say, "I'm not a (blank) major!"

So if you want to tick me off, just say that phrase and you have achieved your goal. Because I firmly believe that it's important to know at least a little about other subjects. And at the very least, be able to perform at a high school level in all subjects if you're in college. Otherwise, you look like an idiot and make other college students look like buffoons too. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Epiphany: A moment of sudden revelation or insight

This week I've had two epiphanies.

  1. Learning is worth more than grades. 
  2. A major is a knowledge in a particular field. 
Learning is worth more than grades
I'm still debating this one and need thoughts. I have come to the conclusion that someone can get solid grades and not actually learn. It's possible to get a 4.0 and not really learn, I really believe that. Does that go the other way, though? Can you learn something and not get high grades? After many years, I think I've decided on "yes". I used to define myself through my grades. Now, I was definitely a student who learned too, but when I didn't care or thought something was stupid, I didn't learn, yet still got a good grade. But I finally learned an important lesson over the course of my undergraduate career--and it's that I'm worth more than my grades. 

I bring this up because I am taking classes now that are going to be challenging for my GPA, I'm pretty sure. But I kind of like the classes--I am learning. They aren't the most fun nor are they easy, but I am learning. I have a test in my American Foreign Policy class this week and I'm not overly confident that I'll do well on it. It's a dang hard class and it'll be a dang hard test. On the first day of class our professor said that she tries to be hard and wants to be known as the hardest teacher, yadda yadda yadda. Even though I don't like the work and may not get a solid grade on this test, I have enjoyed the class and the readings (kind of). I'm learning. So I'm trying to hold onto this realization that learning is more important than grades, because that's the only thing that'll really get me through this semester. 

A major is knowledge in a particular field.
Okay, no duh. But seriously, it just hit me today. I have specific knowledge in the fields of Psychology and Sociology. I understand people and society better than the average person. How cool! I can read people better than most people. I can see relationships and understand them in a different way than the average person. I have an intricate understanding of institutions, of the mind, and of deviance that others don't have. I have a vast amount of knowledge in these fields--more than someone who isn't majoring in either of these and way more than someone who has never taken a class in either subject. 

I felt better about my life and my past four years and this upcoming semester when I had these two epiphanies. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Presidential Candidates

I love voting. It's one of my favorite things to do as an American. I enjoy researching candidates, watching debates, learning about issues that I didn't know existed and hearing their views on them. It's just so....

I was watching CNN tonight and Piers Morgan was on, interviewing Herman Cain--the Republican candidate that dropped out of the race in December. I realized I was incredibly far behind on researching candidates and felt like a terrible American voter.

Anyhoo, I've been on this site for the past two hours or so:
It's amazing! Go on the site and research people!

Now, while I won't advocate for who I do and do not like thus far I seriously do have to share this quote, found on their educational views, because it made me laugh:

"Gingrich has said that high school girls who graduate as virgins should be rewarded."

Alright, go and research and debate and learn!